In its 7th research report, The Africa All Party Parliamentary Group, supported by the Royal African Society is exploring the relationship between democracy and Development. The accepted link between democratic participation and development, as envisaged in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) has been shaken in recent years by the evident economic and human development success of states that are not the most democratic. Yet the presumed link between democracy and development still shapes foreign and development policy in the west. Is this the right approach? How strong is the evidence that democratic values and practice promote development? How do Africans feel about the conditions placed on aid? The Africa APPG is investigating these issues with a particular focus on the implications for UK policy. Among those offering their views was a delegation of members of Parliament from Botswana. Sheila Ruiz, RAS Programme Co-ordinator caught up with the leader of the delegation, The Hon. Andrew Masitara MP following a meeting with members of the Africa APPG.
What are some of the objectives of your delegation in contributing to the Africa APPG’s report on democracy?
We are delighted as the delegation from Botswana to have met the APPG, and made a contribution to its report; in the sense that we feel Botswana is a shining example of Africa. We have quite an important role to play in terms of showcasing our upholding of democratic tenets to other countries to emulate.We also wanted to come and show what we have done since independence, because Botswana is the only country in Africa that hasn't gone through a liberation struggle. We went through peaceful negotiations with Britain and we were given independence by them. Since independence, since 1966 up till now,
we've been having elections every 5 years no interruptions...no problems from the opposition parties as well.
What do you think Botswana’s role is in promoting Africa’s progress and prosperity in the 21st century?
We've seen that of late most African countries are being confronted by problems of civil war, corruption, and I think Botswana's role in participating in regional committees like SADC, and being a member of the commonwealth also we can help to bring peace; We have brought peace to Lesotho; we don't have a force, we have a defence force, but we managed to be sent there to go and quell down the uprising and we brought peace to Lesotho. We were involved in Mozambique - because we are deemed to be a neutral country in Africa, we were able to go to Mozambique, to help in peace-making as well, under the United Nations. I feel Botswana has a special role, especially as it has been earmarked as Africa's financial centre, given the relocation of the Diamond trading centre from London to Botswana. Now Botswana has become the diamond hub of Africa, and we feel that we have an important role to play, through peer review, in terms of sensitising other countries about the tenets of democracy and human rights.
What would you like to see the UK doing in terms of its relationship with African countries, including Botswana?
Since we are a British Protectorate, [sic] we have copied most of our financial systems, administrative systems, operations systems from Britain....and that is one of the reasons why we are here right now because in parliament we have committees that were formed along the lines of the westminster model so we still feel the UK can have an important role to play in terms of capacity building to most african countries including Botswana. We have seen that our countries have been targeted by money launderers from outside as soft spots for them to transit illicit money through countries, so we need capacity building. I chair the governance and oversight committee over the office of the president. So its very important that UK keeps on training us, capacity training us.
Have you had an opportunity to meet with the Botswanan diaspora in the UK – and what role would you like to see them play in Botswana’s economic and political life?
We paid a visit to Botswana's embassy and we managed to talk to some of the student and workers who are actually based in London and within the vicinity. We're trying to sensitise and to persuade them to go back home, because we need their skills that they have developed from outside, to go and help develop our country; because I still feel that with the discovery of another field of diamonds in the desert and the discovery of copper in the desert, two years ago, that Botswana is going to be one of the most prosperous countries in Africa, coupled with the relocation of the diamond trading centre to Botswana from London that is a plus in itself.
What opportunities are there in Botswana for people looking to invest and further their interest in your country?
The opportunities are many. We have in our embassy here in London - by the name of BEDIA - a unit that is trying to attract foreign investment to Botswana through our embassy. From our neighbouring countries, people are just flooding into Botswana, because there are so many opportunities; we have a population of 2 million and with the expected growth of diamond industries, copper, nickel and so forth - we're hoping that within the next two, three, four years, we will be one of the centres of excellence in Africa.
Robert Masitara is the Member of Parliament for Gaborone West North, Botswana and Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Statutory Bodies in Botswana's parliament.